Lyon B., M. A. Bell, M. K. Tippett, A. Kumar, M. P. Hoerling, X.-W. Quan and H. Wang (July 2012): Baseline Probabilities for the Seasonal Prediction of Meteorological Drought. J. Appl. Meteorol. Clim., 51 (7), 1222-1237. doi:10.1175/JAMC-D-11-0132.1

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The inherent persistence characteristics of various drought indicators are quantified to extract predictive information that can improve drought early warning. Predictive skill is evaluated as a function of the seasonal cycle for regions within North America. The study serves to establish a set of baseline probabilities for drought across multiple indicators amenable to direct comparison with drought indicator forecast probabilities obtained when incorporating dynamical climate model forecasts. The emphasis is on the standardized precipitation index (SPI), but the method can easily be applied to any other meteorological drought indicator, and some additional examples are provided. Monte Carlo resampling of observational data generates two sets of synthetic time series of monthly precipitation that include, and exclude, the annual cycle while removing serial correlation. For the case of no seasonality, the autocorrelation (AC) of the SPI (and seasonal precipitation percentiles, moving monthly averages of precipitation) decays linearly with increasing lag. It is shown that seasonality in the variance of accumulated precipitation serves to enhance or diminish the persistence characteristics (AC) of the SPI and related drought indicators, and the seasonal cycle can thereby provide an appreciable source of drought predictability at regional scales. The AC is used to obtain a parametric probability density function of the future state of the SPI that is based solely on its inherent persistence characteristics. In addition, a method is presented for determining the optimal persistence of the SPI for the case of no serial correlation in precipitation (again, the baseline case). The optimized, baseline probabilities are being incorporated into Internet-based tools for the display of current and forecast drought conditions in near–real time.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: PSD Publications
Divisions: Physical Sciences Division
DOI: 10.1175/JAMC-D-11-0132.1